Montgomery County Building Permit Fees Questioned, Working Group to Review

As reported by the Washington Post, developers have raised concerns with Montgomery County’s building permit fees and differences in the fees based on the location of a project within the county.  From the article:

Such disparities are at the center of a debate between Montgomery officials and developers who say some of the county’s fees are excessive. The costs are a prime example, they contend, of how the county has earned an “anti-business” reputation that has damaged its ability to compete against other localities.

“The math just doesn’t work to our advantage,” said Scott Zimmerly, a regional director for Wood Partners, another firm that wants to build apartments in Montgomery.

A group of developers is pressing County Executive Isiah Leggett (D) to trim some fees. In response, Leggett has asked aides to form a working group of industry and county representatives to review the matter.

County officials argue that the fees are necessary to cover operations, which are not supported with tax payer dollars.

Unlike in many localities, the DPS is an “enterprise fund” operation, meaning it runs solely on user fees and takes no money from the county’s tax-supported general fund. Jones said the fee-based approach frees up taxpayer money for other services — such as police, fire protection and schools — that jurisdictions with lower permit fees don’t necessarily fund. The city of Gaithersburg, for instance, relies on county-funded schools and fire protection.

The fees underwrite a “one-stop shop,” created in 1996 to consolidate 10 regulatory activities that had been administered by four county departments. Those activities include the enforcement of electrical, mechanical and zoning codes, storm-water and flood-plain management, sediment control, and well and septic system approval. The DPS will also be responsible for administering new regulations to protect the county’s tree canopy.